Even though she’d encountered a member of the feebleminded Zheng family, buying clothes and jewelry was still delightful. But when Sixth Brother footed the bill, his hands shook slightly.
“Meimei.” Ming Cunfu touched his half-emptied purse, saying to Jiuzhu: “Go and wait for me in the carriage, I am going to purchase a few books from the bookstore across the street.”
“Alright.” Jiuzhu caressed the newly-bought hairpin at her temples, happily nodding her head.
Seeing the smile on his little sister’s face, Ming Cunfu began to reflect on his stinginess. It was good if his little sister was happy, how could he be heartsore over some silver?
“I will return very soon.” Ming Cunfu instructed Chunfen: “Take good care of Young Miss.”
“Gege, don’t worry, I will obediently wait for you in the carriage.” Jiuzhu waved her hand: “Go and choose books to your heart’s content.”
“Then I will leave and come back.”
The horse carriage was parked outside the tailor’s shop. Jiuzhu had just reached it when she heard a girl shriek.
“It jumped onto my clothes, quickly brush it off!”
Jiuzhu saw that the young girl was so scared her flower-like face had leached of all color as she continuously swung her sleeves. Striding forward quickly, Jiuzhu caught the bug.
“Miss, don’t be afraid, it’s only a cricket.” Jiuzhu hid the cricket behind her back, blocking it from the young girl’s view so she would no longer be scared.
“Thank you.” The alarm on the young woman’s face gradually faded. After thanking Jiuzhu, she hurriedly clambered into her own family’s horse carriage.
“Little girl, that is my family’s General Changsheng*.”
*常胜将军 - ever-victorious general, undefeatable commander
Jiuzhu turned back towards the entrance of the tailor’s shop. The purple-robed gongzi from before was carrying a cricket cage in his fingers and beaming at her.
“Naturally.” The purple-robed gongzi spread out his hand. “Here, it’s best to hand over this sort of runaway to me, its master, to handle.”
“Oh.” Jiuzhu jogged over and placed the cricket in the center of this person’s fair palm.
As she watched, this “General Changsheng” wiggled laboriously twice in the purple-robed gongzi’s palm before falling absolutely motionless.
“That…” Jiuzhu silently retreated a step, furtively sizing up the purple-robed gongzi’s expression. She backed up another step. “Perhaps I was careless just now, and used a tiny bit too much strength.”
To lend credence to her words, she used her thumb and forefinger to mark a fingernail’s worth of space: “Really only a tiny bit.”
The purple-robed gongzi lightly arched his brows, throwing “General Changsheng’s” remains inside the cricket cage. One of the personal servants behind him promptly took the cage, and another one passed over a clean brocade handkerchief.
Seeing that the other party was leisurely wiping his hands, Jiuzhu dug around in her purse and took out a piece of broken silver. After some consideration, she felt that this piece of silver was a bit too big and threw it back into the purse, continuing to fish around. Finally finding an even smaller grain of silver, she stepped forward quickly to stuff it into the purple-robed gongzi’s palm and backed away again as fast as possible.
“What a big piece of silver.” Pinching the silver granule that was smaller than a fingernail between two fingers, the purple-robed gongzi sighed with feeling: “Miss is exceedingly generous.”
Jiuzhu hated to part with this silver pellet, but who told her to go out without bringing copper coins today?
“A mere trifle.” Enduring her distress, Jiuzhu twisted her head away to avoid looking at the silver granule on the other party’s fingertip. “For the cricket’s funeral expenses.”
The hands of the personal servant holding the cricket cage quivered. But he was a dedicated servant of a princely house -- before the master spoke, he absolutely must not reveal any emotion.
“No matter.” The purple-robed gongzi randomly crammed the broken silver granule inside his waistband. “In accordance with Miss’s wishes, I will definitely bury General Changsheng in grand style.”
“That…” Jiuzhu curtsied towards the purple-robed gongzi in apology: “I beg your pardon.”
Although it wasn’t intentional, this cricket was indeed heedlessly pinched to death by her.
Blame her for having seen little of the world. She wasn’t aware that people in the capital would intentionally raise crickets as pets.
“It’s fine.” The purple-robed gongzi mounted his horse and took the whip handed over by his attendants. “This was a plaything that was originally going to die anyway.”
He raised his horse whip in preparation to leave, but all of a sudden turned around to regard the gold twined flower hairpin at Jiuzhu’s temples. “To which family does Miss belong, I have never seen you before.”
Jiuzhu’s dark and liquid eyes gazed at the gongzi in purple robes. With small, tottering steps, she speedily went back to her family’s horse carriage.
What was the matter with all the boys in the capital that they would ask girls their full names after a disagreement?
Taking note of the little girl’s movements, the purple-robed gongzi softly clicked his tongue. Which family had raised such a naive little girl? Later when she married, wouldn’t she be bullied by her husband’s family into becoming a stuffed steamed bun?
Seeing the purple-robed gongzi also cast a “rabbit is about to be roasted” look at her before waving his whip to depart, she finally confirmed something.
The one with a problem wasn’t her, but all the people in the capital.
“Meimei.” Ming Cunfu came over carrying a few books in his arms. “Come, let’s go home.”
Inside the carriage, Jiuzhu clutched her purse in distress. “Sixth Brother, just now I accidentally pinched somebody’s cricket to death and had to compensate with some funeral expenses.”
“What cricket?” Min Cunfu knew that some profligate juniors in the capital liked to raise crickets and amuse themselves with cricket fights.
“The owner called it General Changsheng.”
“What?” The originally slouching Ming Cunfu sat up straight in a flash. “General Changsheng?”
In the whole capital, aside from the preposterous Chen wang, who would dare to give their cricket this kind of name?
“How, how much did you pay?” He swallowed, throat dry.
“A silver piece this big.” Jiuzhu used her thumb to approximate half a fingernail’s length.
Ming Cunfu immediately breathed a sigh of relief. So cheap, it couldn’t have been Chen wang’s General Changsheng.
Rumor had it that Chen wang spent nearly a hundred gold pieces to buy a cricket, and even named it General Changsheng. If it really was His Highness’s cricket, those bits of silver on his little sister might have only been enough to inter a few of the cricket’s legs.
Several days later, Jiuzhu was drinking tea with her mother at home when she saw her father come in with a heavy face.
“What happened?” Shen shi asked casually.
“Just some trivial matters at court.” Ming Jingzhou forced a smile and took two sips of the leftover tea in front of Shen shi. “Today someone presented a memorial requesting that His Majesty appoint a successor. The voices for Huai wang and Qi wang were the loudest.”
“And His Majesty?” Shen shi chose a piece of pastry and placed it in front of Ming Jingzhou.
“His Majesty was furious.” Ming Jingzhou sat down at the table. After drinking the tea and eating the pastry, he turned to watch his daughter.
Jiuzhu gazed at him in uncertainty.
“Alas,” Ming Jingzhou heaved a sigh.
The other princes all had people to recommend them. It was only his daughter’s fiancé, abhorred by civil officials and disliked by military officials, who was left out.
“What’s the matter?” Jiuzhu reached out to gently pat Ming Jingzhou’s back. “Was His Majesty not pleased with the prince that you recommended?”
Ming Jingzhou silently shook his head. If this was the case, he wouldn’t be sighing.
“Didn’t you say that His Majesty is only fifty-one years old right now?” Jiuzhu didn’t understand why the court officials wanted the Emperor to establish an heir so urgently. What was the difference between this and when the common folk pointed at their vigorous elders and said, I think you are going to die sooner or later, let’s divide up the family property in advance.
Ming Jingzhou nodded.
“His Majesty is full of vitality and vigor, and has the country and the citizens in his heart. The soldiers and the censors are all under his control.” Jiuzhu looked at Ming Jingzhou in puzzlement. “To establish a successor so soon, what benefit does it give to His Majesty?”
“But presently the princes are all of age. His Majesty favors Noble Consort Su, I’m afraid that even the rivers and the mountains will also be snatched away by this pair of mother and son.”
“They’re all His Majesty’s sons, why is it that only Chen wang can’t…”
Shen shi stuffed a piece of crunchy candy into Jiuzhu’s mouth, speaking in a low voice: “Jiuzhu, behave, don’t speak of court matters.”
Jiuzhu bit into the crunchy candy with a “ka-cha” sound. They could speak of Qi wang and Huai wang, but not Chen wang?
Recalling that even a little kid dared to say that Noble Consort niangniang was a demoness consort, Jiuzhu felt upset at heart. Niangniang and Chen wang were so good and kind, how could they withstand the elbowing of these people from the capital?
“Chen wang’s conduct is quite intemperate.” Referring to his future son-in-law, a few more lines of wrinkles appeared on Ming Jingzhou’s forehead. “Reportedly, Marquis Pingyuan’s heir upset him a few days ago, and he had the other person confined to a school to copy books.”
“What’s wrong with copying books?” Shen shi was somewhat surprised. The method Chen wang used to settle the score this time was rather gentle in comparison to the past.
“He put Zheng Wangnan in the beginners class at the children’s school.”
It was hard to say if this method was severe or not, but it was humiliating to the extreme.
“Zheng Wangnan must’ve done something that crossed the line so that Chen wang would do such a thing.” Jiuzhu assuredly said: “Chen wang is gentle and kindhearted, he would definitely not punish someone without cause or reason.”
Shen shi and Ming Jingzhou uniformly gaped at Jiuzhu.
Beloved daughter, exactly what kind of bizarre misunderstanding do you have regarding Chen wang’s character?
“That Zheng Wangnan, your daughter met him last time when outside with Sixth Brother.” Jiuzhu recounted the affair. “He ridiculed the style of the hairpin I picked as vulgar and even wanted to ask me which family I came from.”
“I suspect,” she stroked her chin, expression profound and eyes brimming with wisdom, “that he wanted to inquire about my family as a pretext to mock our whole house.”
“Rubbish, what do men understand about ornaments and jewelry?” Shen shi absolutely could not tolerate anyone speaking badly of the daughter that their family had found with such difficulty. “This kind of ignorant man should be sent to the children’s school.”
“Wife, it’s the beginners class.”
Precisely the class with the youngest kids.
“This… Will other children be influenced by him?” She recalled that a distant relative’s child was also in the beginners class at the children’s school.
Every family’s child was precious and could not be led astray by Zheng Wangnan.
“Not necessarily…” Ming Jingzhou coughed drily. Diving into the heart of the issue, he turned and asked Jiuzhu: “Jiuzhu, where did you hear that His Highness Chen wang is gentle and kindhearted?”
Why would there be such an outrageous rumor in the capital city?
“It’s not the truth?”
Ming Jingzhou: “...”
Between this rumor and reality, there was a distance of one hundred and eight thousand li*.
*里 - ancient measure of length, approximately 500 meters
Fortunately, at least they weren’t worlds apart.
Actually, half of the sentence “His Highness Chen wang is gentle and kindhearted” could be considered true.
For example, the four words “His Highness Chen wang.”
T/L Note: Jiuzhu and Chen wang have their first encounter!
My schedule is still very busy, so no set schedule for the next update, but will try to get it out as soon as I can. Will we be seeing more of our hero next chapter?